An interagency initiative to foster employer cooperation with the federal government on work authorization issues and effectively enforce hiring laws recently produced guidance on conducting Form I-9 audits.
The six-month action plan that led to the guidance is called the Interagency Working Group for the Consistent Enforcement of Federal Labor, Employment and Immigration Laws. The coalition was put together to improve cooperation on employment matters where they share similar responsibilities and improve enforcement of labor laws. In addition, the interagency group is focused on promoting partnership between agencies and employers and ensuring that employers don't intentionally violate the Immigration and Nationality Act or breach employee protection laws.
The purpose of the interagency guidance on Form I-9 audits
The guidance was developed to help employers better understand how self-audits can help them with and what the procedure is for conducting them. Form I-9 audits can assist companies with ensuring that their documents are free of mistakes, and are being stored correctly. Immigration and Customs Enforcement runs its own inspections of Form I-9s, and it is better for the company to discover mistakes before ICE finds any. If an employer conducts its own audit of the documents and comes across any issues, they can be quickly corrected according to best practices for Form I-9 changes.
"Without proper guidance employers may make mistakes on their Form I-9s."
"Employers have a responsibility to ensure their Form I-9 practices are in compliance with the Immigration and Nationality Act," Sarah Saldaña, the director of ICE, said in a statement. "If used properly, audits can be an effective tool to achieve this end."
Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, added that without proper guidance employers may make mistakes in their Form I-9 audit procedures. A fault such as an improper correction of a Form I-9 could result in fines. Mistakes such as those can be easy to make, but difficult to pay for later on if ICE discovers them during its own audit.
The Form I-9 audit guidance was released by ICE and the DOJ's Civil Rights Division. ICE is a division of the Department of Homeland Security, which, along with the DOJ, is a part of the interagency group. It begins by explaining the purpose of conducting regular Form I-9 audits. The document explains that before starting one of these inspections, it is important to consider the size and purpose of the audit. It is also essential to avoid inspections that may appear to be discriminatory or retaliatory audits. To foster a transparent work environment, it is important to warn employees of pending self-audits.
Procedure for Form I-9 corrections
In fact, some employees may become involved in Form I-9 audits later on. If mistakes are discovered, the guidance recommends that the employer provide the employee with copies of the deficient documents. It is also important to offer instructions for how to proceed, depending on the Form I-9 issue.
If a mistake or omission is discovered, and a change has to be made, employers have to proceed properly. Deviating from the standard correction process could result in a Form I-9. This process is outlined in the interagency guidance on Form I-9 audits. If the issue is with Section 1, then the employee must correct it. If it is another section, it is up to the employer to make the change. The proper procedure is to draw a line through the mistake, write in the omission or appropriate information and initial and date the change.
The guidance goes on to answer many more questions employers may have about a Form I-9 self-audit. Another way employers can ensure fewer mistakes, as well as a simpler audit process, is by using an electronic Form I-9 system. These programs can automatically detect some mistakes, and make sure that individuals completing Form I-9s cannot proceed until any issues are corrected. An automated I-9 compliance system such as I-9 Medic, can help with avoiding any issues, as well as ensuring that the correction procedure is proper.
Learn more about I-9 Medic, a compliant Form I-9 correction solution that converts your existing paper I-9s to digital format, than precisely catches errors on each form, and offers accurate correction guidance, audit trails, and more.
Employers who wish to conduct a Form I-9 audit, or read more about the process, can also look to the interagency group's guidance on the inspections.